As I watched the final seconds tick off the scoreboard on Paul Decker Field at Hendersonville High School, I realized I wouldn’t be cold the rest of the year covering sports in Sumner County.
The football season had come to a close, with the Commandos losing 28-7 to Summit in the Class 6A Semifinal Round; they were the last team in the county standing.
Just like that, the season was over, and it was time to turn my attention to winter sports like basketball, bowling, and wrestling — all indoor sporting events. My frozen fingers were excited.
At the same time, there was a part of me that knew I would miss those Friday night lights; whether hot or cold, wet or dry, nothing beats a high school football Friday night.
With pageantry on full display, I knew I wouldn’t get that same feeling for another nine months, and that is a shame.
So, in this space, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect and talk about some things I learned about Sumner County football teams this season.
Sumner County is littered with coaches that care
If you look at all eight Sumner County High School football coaches, you will find one thing in common — great leaders of young men.
I watched football coaches be more than just that this season — I watched them be a father figure.
Whether buying suits for seniors, giving kids a ride, or making sure they have a warm meal, Sumner County is lucky to have coaches that care. So, shout out to the head coaches who lead this county's respective programs -- Anthony Crabtree (Beech), Chad Watson (Gallatin), James Beasley (Hendersonville), Justin Geisinger (Pope Prep), Wes Inman (Portland), Brent Alexander (Station Camp), Chad Perry (Westmoreland), and Ryan Hamilton (White House).
Pope Prep is ready to be considered among the elite in DII-AAA; Minchey named Mr. Football Finalist in DII-AAA
Pope Prep has accomplished many incredible feats under head coach Justin Geisinger, but none bigger than this season when his Knights reached the DII-AAA Semifinal Round for the first time in school history.
The Knights’ football program no longer carries the burden of competition every Friday night but worries about the next rung on the DII-AAA ladder of success.
Getting into the Final Four is something to be incredibly proud of and a goal next year’s seniors will try to reach and exceed in 2022.
Led by Mr. Football Finalist Kenny Minchey at Quarterback, look for the Knights to continue that upward trajectory into 2022.
Jack Biller finds family in football
If you missed my story earlier this season on Jack Biller finding family in football, I suggest you read it. Not because it is a well-written piece of work, I was only a tool for Jack, but because he is leading an incredible story. What he found from his coaches and teammates this year will carry him for the rest of his life. These seasons, these moments, are what high school sports, high school football, is all about.
Hendersonville proves doubters wrong
My favorite part of the season may have been when I was sitting with a group of Hendersonville seniors, and one politely reminded me they were supposed to be 5-5 this season.
Of course, they were talking about my preseason predictions featured in the Sumner County football magazine and how I chose them to finish the season .500 at best.
Well, they proved me and many others wrong with a 10-4 campaign and a trip to the Semifinal Round.
Navigating through arguably the most challenging schedule in the county Hendersonville and head coach James Beasley showed a family atmosphere will get you over any hurdle during the season.
Ranen Blackburn will go down as one of the greatest White House football players of all time
I stopped trying to figure out the criteria for a Mr. Football Finalist years ago when Kameon Dunlap (Beech) was inexcusably left off the list as a senior in 2018, and I certainly don't have the answers as to why Blackburn was left of the Finalist list for 2021.
I never covered White House once this season as they fall under the umbrella of another publication. Still, keeping up with Ranen Blackburn was appointment viewing every Friday night or Saturday morning.
The senior, who should have been named a Class 3A Mr. Football Finalist, wrapped his illustrious career with more than 6,500 total yards, including a 1,000 yard passing and 1,000 yard rushing season in 2020.
Blackburn finishes his career first in White House history for most 100-yard games (23), passing/rushing yards combined (6,279), second in career rushing (4,412), second in career touchdowns (50), and second in career 200-yard rushing games (4).
Brent Alexander rejuvenates Station Camp football
One of the best storylines in all of 2021 across Middle Tennessee is the resurgence of the Station Camp football program under Brent Alexander.
The Bison started the 2021 season 7-0 before losing three of their final four, but a not-so-big graduating senior class has many around the East Bank optimistic for 2022.
Being in Class 5A certainly helps the Bison, but after all those years playing in Class 6A where they didn’t belong, I think it’s only fair for Station Camp to have a couple of seasons playing with schools much closer to their size.
Heading into the 2022 spring season, Station Camp is among the teams I am most looking forward to seeing.
Looking forward to 2022
It’s hard to believe my All-Sumner County football email went out to coaches this week, but I am excited to share with you the teams later this month.
Next season is sure to present many unique storylines, and I am here for them.
Will Hendersonville 4-Peat as region champions? Will Sumner County have a team finish undefeated? Will Pope Prep make it to the state championship game? Will Portland win Region 7-5A next season? How will White House replace Ranen Blackburn’s productivity? All those and many other great questions are sure to emerge next year.
Until then, I'll see you on the hardwood.